By Carl Adamec
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis’ 24-point effort for the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team Friday night wasn’t what impressed her coaches and teammates most. The sophomore forward has been a scorer from the time she first looked at a hoop.
But the nine rebounds, four assists to one turnover, and two steals Mosqueda-Lewis had in the Huskies’ 105-28 exhibition rout of Division II Indiana University of Pennsylvania at Gampel Pavilion made coach Geno Auriemma take notice.
“I thought early in the game she passed up on a couple shots I was hoping she would take,” Auriemma said. “But you have a kid who has a reputation of just being able to shoot threes who now wants to do four or five other things to help her and us, that’s huge. Kaleena played harder today defensively then she has in her life and that’s a great sign.”
Mosqueda-Lewis played a team-high 31 minutes against IUP in part because the Huskies had only nine players available. But the bigger part was that she earned her time with her effectiveness and effort.
“We’re just trying to get out the kinks and try and get a good rhythm out there,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “It doesn’t matter who you’re playing if you’re not running the offense right or making the right rotations. I think tonight really helped us
figure out what tweaks we need to make on defense and offense.”
Mosqueda-Lewis was 9-for-16 from the floor and 6-for-12 from 3-point land. She helped UConn to a 45-24 advantage on the boards and helped force 28 IUP turnovers. The Huskies also had 27 assists on their 39 baskets.
The Anaheim Hills, Calif., native said she spent the offseason working on being a better defensive player and it’s paid off since practice began.
“I do not want to be a liability for my team,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “I don’t want to be someone that’s pointed out as, ‘We’re going to go to this side because this is where Kaleena’s going to be. She might make a mistake.’ Coach told me, ‘You’ve got to be dependable. You’ve got to be dependable on defense and on offense.’ ”
Friday night, Mosqueda-Lewis was that and more.
But she has a brain
With 4:04 left Friday night, Breanna Stewart hit a pull-up jumper. As she finished her follow through, her arms and body hit an IUP defender and the freshman forward was called for a foul.
Auriemma wasn’t thrilled with the whistle but could joke about it afterwards.
“We’ve got to get the referees caught up to speed a little bit,” he said. “Like I’m not sure that they realize that when Breanna Stewart is on the floor … It’s like having the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz. You turn him loose. At some point you’re just going to have to like lay him on the floor and put him back together again because, like, she’s all over the place.
“So they called a foul on her after shooting the ball. She falls down. Seriously, she falls down. Do you see how much she falls down? She knocks our guys down. She just runs around and then gets every rebound and makes shots and goes in the lane
and just makes plays that nobody else can make. Like you watch her and then the next time you look over, she fell down. You go, ‘What the heck happened?’ And I think we need to let the refs know that that’s just who she is and you need to get
used to that. You guys have not seen anything yet.”
Stewart chuckled when told of Auriemma’s comments. She’s not the second coming of Tiffany Hayes.
“My response to that is that I don’t fall down that much,” Stewart said. “I fell down a lot tonight because I was trying to move around on defense and then I would hit someone and then be on the ground. But I’m going to change that. Hopefully, I
won’t be on the ground as much next game unless it’s for a charge.”
Stewart finished with 15 points, eight rebounds, and four blocked shots in 24 minutes off the bench.
Caroline Doty sat out the exhibition opener after tweaking her surgically-repaired left knee in Friday’s shootaround.
The fifth-year senior missed the 2010-11 season after a third ACL tear and surgery but bounced back to play in 37 of 38 games a season ago.
“All year long there are going to be issues,” Auriemma said. “For the most part it’s nothing for anybody to worry about or obsess about. There is nothing you can do about it. Ninety percent of the time in practice when she’s out on the floor there are no problems whatsoever. But given her history there is just enough times where it is like, ‘Uh oh.’ And those times you just shut it down, walk away from it, and live to play another day. We have practice (Saturday) and she’ll be there. We have a day off Sunday. So I’m expecting her to play on Wednesday.”
UConn wraps up its exhibition schedule Wednesday night against Division II Holy Family at the XL Center in Hartford.